A little story about my Alberta producers, Sean and Rick. About 15 years ago, I was introduced to them by an exec who worked at Porchlight Entertainment. Porchlight specialized in family entertainment.
An agent had set up a meeting for me with Sean and Rick and apparently we were going in to pitch a project that Sean and Rick had. Great, I thought. We met with Joe, the exec, in the boardroom and talked about the story, a family that gets lost in the woods, and it looked like we had a deal.
I stepped out for a coffee and as I stood in their little lunchroom I heard Joe talking to someone on the phone in his office, he was alone. He was talking about the movie we just pitched and then said these words;
"And we're getting a Canadian writer to write it for free."
Stunned? Yes, I was never told this by Sean or Rick. So what do I do?
I waited as our meeting was pretty much over anyways and then as we walked back to our cars, I confronted them. To add insult to injury they said, yes it was for free. But I wasn't told this, otherwise I wouldn't have even taken the meeting.
They both acted hurt, said they got me a job and I didn't want it and that all they were doing was trying to help. Let me say this about that; I wouldn't be able to count the number of times someone has asked me to write for free. Dozens. No, hundreds. Really.
I think producers often think writing a script is like writing a get well card. I left them uncertain and went home.
Later, I thought about it and figured this; it was an easy script to write, I could do it in a few weeks if I had to; and it was almost Christmas and the town would be closed for at least 3 weeks. I also had another card to play.
I wrote the script in 3 weeks and sent it to them. They loved it. No doubt because it didn't cost them anything. They flew down in the new year and we met Joe again. Joe was happy too. But not for long.
Then I asked them to option it. They stared at each other, uncertain and then Sean the smooth one said they couldn't possibly do that, they had no money.
To which I replied that it's all right.
I'll just keep the script and hand it over to my agent who would shop it around to someone who could option it. Family scripts aren't hard to sell.
They stared again. But how could I do that? Wasn't it their script?
Sean and Rick had sent me a contract over Christmas but I never signed it.
The script was mine. Totally for sure, eh?
Two weeks later I got a new contract and an option fee of $2500. The film was eventually never made but I at least squeezed some money from them.
And now they held the option to Emperor of Mars and I couldn't help wondering if they still had some resentment towards me. But I did include them in the commercial pilot's attempt to do Emperor albeit a failure, I still gave them a shot to make a pile of money. I'm a good guy, I wanted to share.
And besides, once again, nobody else was offering a dime. I learned a long time ago that holding out never worked for me, others seem to do it effortlessly, but not me. I say no and they never come back.
Except when I really don't want to do something. I've had a few offers to rewrite screenplays that were awful and I just didn't want to do it because I knew it would be a stressful and horrible experience comparable to that TV series I blogged about a few months ago. And that cost me hand surgery and 3 back surgeries.
My only concern was that I wasn't sure they could raise $5 million in spite of Sean's enthusiasm, the only film they totally financed was about $1.5 million, the other movies they made were almost totally financed by American networks and/or studios.
Someone once said that if we just worked with people we liked, nobody would ever make a movie again.
So let the games begin.